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City decision to conserve salt has impact on schools

BY CORIANNE EGANcegan@paducahsun.com

The decision to conserve road salt and only treat major roads has kept Paducah Public Schools out of classes this week, with no end in sight.

Paducah's road crews are short on salt - they only have an estimated 300 tons left for the season - and City Engineer and Public Works director Rick Murphy told the Paducah City Commission on Tuesday night that it was limiting the ability to treat roads. The strategy has become to treat main roads, Murphy said, then break up ice, plow and shovel on secondary roads and in subdivisions.

When school Superintendent Randy Greene's team drove the roads on Wednesday afternoon, the ice was beginning to melt and roads seemed clear. Overnight, water on the roads froze. When the team went out to test the roads again about 4:30 a.m., they were completely different, he said.

"We knew it could change, but when it did it became very, very dangerous," Greene said. "Our car couldn't get up hills, and would slide to either side. If a car couldn't do it, imagine how it would be for a bus."

Greene canceled schools Thursday morning, then took three more trips out onto the city streets to see if they were getting better. They were not, he said, so he canceled classes for today. Now, administrators think that if temperatures don't rise and the ice doesn't melt, next week will see bus stops moved closer to primary roads. The moves won't be far, Greene said, but could amount to a block or two. For now, snow days pile up and Paducah students have missed nearly a full week of school.

"It's just been this perfect storm," Mayor Gayle Kaler said. "There's been some desperation."

The city's road crews can't do much at this point to remove the ice. Scraping the ice with plows could hurt the asphalt, and salt does not work when temperatures are this low. Temperatures should be above freezing this weekend, although more precipitation is forecast for Sunday.

"I've been driving around a lot today, and the priority streets are clear," Kaler said. "There are roads that are still covered in ice. I feel bad for the working parents who have to find child care. This is just Mother Nature, and we have to deal with it."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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